The ‘Economic’ in Indian Sociology: Genealogies, Disjunctions and Agenda

Prof. Manish Kumar Thakur1

1Iim Calcutta, , India

A cursory glance at the century-old history of Indian sociology reveals its relative under-engagement with economic phenomena and processes. While the ‘economic’ did get studied under the influence of agrarian studies, and some other themes like labour, factory, trade unions did attract scholarly attention from some sociologists, we notice an absence of a sustained and robust academic tradition of sociological studies of the economy. There appears to have been an intellectual division of labour where economic issues were ceded to the economists whereas sociologists remained content with their studies of caste, village, kinship and joint family. This paper attempts to locate this apparent disjunction between the social and the economic from the perspective of intellectual history. Of necessity, this calls for an examination of the relationship between sociology and economics and the way it unfolded in post-Independence India. It brings into analytical purview the role of the development state, the prevailing notions of expertise, and the differential treatment accorded to different social science disciplines. The paper concludes with the outlining of a research agenda for the sociological study of the ‘economic’.


Manish Kumar Thakur is a Professor of Sociology at the Public Policy and Management Group of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. His published research deals with aspects of water resources management, rural development knowledge institutions and discourses, research-policy interface, political culture, management education, social movements, intellectual history and indigenous theories.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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